In our series of blogs exploring the background of our leadership team, we’ve already been introduced to our curator, Gurjit, our Head of Partnerships, Pauline, and our Head of Event Management, Jo, so now it’s time to hear a bit about our Head of Marketing & Communications, Cat Leaver.
Tell us a bit about you and your background
I’ve always been a bit of a work-addict and very independent. I got my first job at 14 and have never really stopped working since. When I wasn’t at school or work, I enjoyed playing the piano and dancing, where I also taught ‘baby ballet’ (it was as cute as it sounds) and in later years (very occasionally more recently) I also taught beginner’s piano.
I first moved to Glasgow when I was 17 to study International Business and Modern Languages at the University of Strathclyde, a five-year degree which included four years there and a year studying in Barcelona. Living in Spain for a year taught me a lot about myself, about independence and endeavour, and furthered my love of travel and exploration of new cultures. As this was part of a joint degree in Spanish, all classes and exams were completed in Spanish throughout that year, which, whilst testing, was an incredible opportunity to develop my linguistic skills.
My first professional job was working for a small, family-run manufacturing firm, running their sales and marketing. This job was a baptism of fire and I learned a lot about what to do (and what not to do), as well as gaining a unique insight into the operational side of a business.
For almost six years now, I’ve worked in the digital sector at the strategic digital agency After Digital (formerly AD). As Head of Strategy, my role is to work with the board to support the strategic direction of the agency, consult with clients worldwide to help them leverage digital to greatest effect, and to manage and oversee the output of our digital marketing work and teams. I’m incredibly proud of what the team have achieved in my team here, we grew to exceed £1m turnover back in 2012 and have won numerous awards including ‘Best Digital Agency’ at the DigiTech Awards 2013 and ‘Best Digital Marketing Campaign’ at the Big Chip Awards 2016.
This role has also supported me in accomplishing many personal goals and honours, including being accepted onto TRC Media & Channel 4’s competitive leadership program “Cross Creative: Special Edition” back in 2013, winning “Chief Executive’s Award” at the Women in Business Awards 2015 and “Digital Personality of the Year” at the Mancoolian Awards 2015.
How did you hear about TEDxGlasgow?
I was always aware of the TEDx initiative and had heard of very small-scale events across Scotland, but I was delighted to hear about the ambitions of TEDxGlasgow when a friend, Kathryn Porteous, contacted me to see if I’d be interested in getting involved in some way.
How did you get involved in TEDxGlasgow?
Kathryn led the Partnerships team two years ago and approached me about joining her team and giving access to my network of contacts in the technology and digital world. As a big TED fan, I jumped at the chance to do my bit and swiftly ended up doing far more than ever intended (2 hours per week… hmmm haha). During this period, I worked closely with Gurjit and Kathryn, identifying potential new partners whose values aligned with our own and nurturing strong relationships.
The event was incredible and instantly had me hooked. That was back in 2014. That year taught me that the team was still very much in its infancy (this was the first year the group had come together more formally and only the organisation’s second annual event, which had already doubled in size from its inception), and there were massive gaps in disciplines. Applying my experience, I suggested the need for a marketing ‘department/function’ and was quickly appointed Head of Marketing & Communications. And, as they say, the rest is history.
Tell us a little about your role
I look after all marketing and communications for TEDxGlasgow (both traditional and digital), from liaising with press to creating and distributing content across channels. I hope to bring my background in digital and marketing to the fore, supporting the organisation in growing its network, reach and impact.
What is the biggest challenge in your TEDx role?
Working for the past couple of years in a completely volunteer-run organisation has meant that resource is, naturally, strained. Add to this the fact that as a non-profit, there is very limited (often no) budget for any acquisition marketing and systems, presenting challenges at times. There are occasions when it is just not possible to commit the time we’d like to. Everyone has full-time jobs and other engagements, which means TEDxGlasgow is purely run on passion and the commitment of a small but dedicated team. But, this is, in part, what makes it such an interesting role.
What is your favourite TED/TEDxTalk?
A recent and very powerful example that resonated with me, particularly due to recent events, was actress Ashley Judd’s talk ‘How online abuse of women has spiralled out of control’ (beware there is some strong language in this one).
One of our very own TEDxGlasgow talks from Ellis Watson – ‘Disrupt yourself or die trying’, remains a firm favourite for both its captivating emotion and motivational drive.
I believe Pauline already mentioned it, but there was no way I was leaving out Simon Sinek’s stirring talk on leadership ‘How great leaders inspire change’.
What is your favourite thing about TEDx?
There are so many things I love about it. I love the way it brings people together. I love the way it challenges us to explore topics and perspectives we’d never even considered. I love the feeling of community and connection. And, above all else, I love the possibilities it creates.